1.20.2007

U.S. Business, Bishops, Progressive Unions, President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress in Bid to Pass Immigration Reform

What can possibly bring groups with such different political views and agendas such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Restaurant Association, Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE and President G.W. Bush?

Immigration.

That is, the sensible reform of the country’s antiquated and hypocritical immigration system.

This coalition, which also includes leading immigrant advocacy groups such as the National Council of La Raza and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, this launched a renewed effort to get push immigration reform “over the finish line” in the now Democratic-controlled Congress.

Last year, the coalition supported the John McCain and Edward Kennedy’s proposal, which among other things provided a “pathway” to citizenship for resident undocumented workers. While it gained the support of the President Bush and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, it stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives when Republican Tom Tancredo and his anti-Latino immigrant caucus worked to defeat the bill.

With the rise of Democrats in Congress and the defeat of anti-immigrant congressmen such as J.D.Hayworth (R-Arizona) and George Allen (R-Virginia), it’s believed that the passage of a comprehensive bill is now a near certainty.

However, the anti-immigrant caucus is not without allies. Also opposing the reforms is the 53-member AFL-CIO.

It’s expected that the McCain-Kennedy bill, first introduced in 2005, will be the starting point for this year’s discussions. That bill sought to grant legal status and eventual citizenship to most illegal immigrants after they pay fines of $2,000, pass criminal background checks and meet English and civics requirements. It also would create a guest-worker program to bring in up to 400,000 workers a year to fill low-skilled and unskilled jobs.

The fact that President Bush, Chairman Mel Martinez, Senator John McCain and others in the Republican Party are in support of sensible reforms will help the help distance the GOP from the anti-Latino immigrant bigots.